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I wanted Dustin Fowler to succeed next year. In case you missed it, he’s the kid who came up from the New York Yankees minor league baseball system who ran into a low wall at Chicago White Sox and hurt his knee, ending his season and, as it turns out, his Yankees career before it began.

Fowler was slated to lead off the second inning of his first major league game, but, instead, was carted from the field to receive emergency medical attention.

It’s somewhere between incredibly difficult and impossible to make the major leagues and yet Fowler was good enough to be on the field.

And then, like the real person Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, who was featured in the Kevin Costner movie “Field of Dreams,” Fowler got within inches of holding a bat and facing major league pitching, when the season ended for him.

Fowler hasn’t left baseball but, as of this week, he’s no longer on the team he imagined joining. In need of starting pitching for this stretch run from now until October, the Yankees traded him as a part of a package to get Sonny Gray from the Oakland A’s.

Now, I want the Yankees to win and Fowler was a chip the team could trade to get a talent who could pitch more than five innings, and who might win important games in October.

And yet when Fowler left the Chicago field, I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan who hoped to support him a second time if and when he got another opportunity — and the Yankees needed him.

He still may get his chance with Oakland. After all, if he was good enough before his injury, he may ride the same determination and skill on the long road back to the majors.

Over before it started, Fowler’s Yankee career will feel like an unopened or undelivered present, shipped somewhere else.

Fowler was our boy. He was drafted in the 18th round in 2013 and had worked his way up to the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In the statistics for his career, there is a “1” next to the number of games he played in 2017 with the Yankees, along with “zeros” all the way through every other column. No doubles, triples, home runs or runs batted in for this Yankee apparition.

This is the time of year when baseball general managers have to decide between the present and the future. What are they willing to give up in an uncertain future for a present that may be less of an unknown?

Will the A’s and now Yankees pitcher Gray be worth the price of sentiment if he wins important games down the stretch and into the playoffs?

Derek Jeter used to remain unflappable as teammates wandered on and off his team, often shrugging off questions while indicating he knew it was a business.

If that business does well, do we care that some kid who may or may not have amounted to much for our team is now playing for someone else after bouncing back from adversity?

Fowler will be the one who made it to the team, only to have a freak type of baseball interference prevent him from fulfilling his rise from Yankees prospect to Yankees player.

The A’s and their fans will now pick up the Fowler narrative, making him a part of their lore and history. No matter how things pan out, Yankee fans can wish him the best even as we wonder what that might have been as a part of the New York narrative.

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Brooklyn Atlantics and Brooklyn Eckford teams on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society this past May. Photo from Tim Keenan

By Marianne Howard

Much intensity erupted when Major League Baseball announced the no-pitch intentional walk rule at the start of the 2017 season. Accordingly, I wondered about the changes of baseball rules and their origins in America. The Smithtown Historical Society is home to the Brooklyn Atlantics, a team of vintage baseball players, those recreate the look and feel of historic baseball. The Atlantics play the game today according to 1864 and 1884 rules.  The original Brooklyn Atlantics were the World Champions of baseball for the 1864-1865 season, and champions of their league throughout the 1860s.

So how do these gentlemen play the game?  I spoke with Atlantics Captain Frank Van Zant, known to his teammates as Shakespeare, about these rules and how they evolved over time.  In 1864, there were no gloves because the homemade baseball was much softer.  It was made of one piece of leather which was sewn together.  The pitcher stood 45 feet away from the batter, and threw the ball underhand, but with some purposeful zip and intention as to force the batter out.  Over the course of 20 years, throughout the 1860s and 1870s, pitchers began to cheat slightly and throw the ball sideways, and eventually quicker and quicker, and then completely overhand.  Since pitching this way is faster, it led to the appearance of the first catcher’s glove by the 1880s.

Think about trying to catch a line drive without wearing a glove as a fielder.  If you stuck your fingers out, you would most likely break one, so you had to make a decision to force your hand out flat to catch the ball and stick to that, an insistence from today’s Atlantics that those who play this way are truly brave and manly men.  In order to avoid injury, balls caught with one bounce in the field were also called as an out.  This rule waned after the 1860s, with the fielders considered less manly if they caught the baseball in that fashion. In the early 1860s, balls and strikes did not exist.  The calls weren’t “invented” until 1864, and at that point, umpires did not have to call them.

Pitchers could be throwing 40 to 50 pitches per batter  Today, a starting pitcher is generally removed after throwing 100 pitches. Therefore, generally speaking, changes in rules over time have been to try to find an acceptable balance between the efforts of the offense and that of the defense.

Want to come down and see the Atlantics in action?  Their next home game at the Smithtown Historical Society is on July 22 at 11am.  All  games are free, open to the public, and the players welcome questions from the audience about the rules and the game.

Marianne Howard is the executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society.  For more information on the Society, its events or programs, or becoming a member, please visit smithtownhistorical.org or call 631-265-6768.

Shoreham-Wading River's Brian Morrell was selected in the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

It has been quite a month for Shoreham-Wading River senior Brian Morrell.

After the right-handed pitcher helped lead his team to a 24-2 record and Suffolk County title to close out May, he performed in the Blue Chip Grand Slam Challenge, leading Suffolk County to that win, too. Last week, he became the second player ever to receive the Yastrzemski Award twice in the distinction’s 50-year history. The honor is awarded to the top player in Suffolk County, which Morrell also became just the fourth junior to receive.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik, who was recently playing for Chipola College in Florida, was selected by Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round of the Major League Baseball draft. File photo by Bill Landon

To top it off, now he’s also a Major League Baseball draftee.

The small-town star was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 35th round, with the 1,043rd pick, just after 5 p.m. June 14.

“An absolute honor to be drafted by the Phillies today,” Morrell posted on Twitter. “Thank you to all of the people who have supported me over my baseball career.”

The feared slugger batted .500 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs while scoring 37 runs this season, and had a 10-1 pitching record with 93 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings. His first loss didn’t come until the Long Island championship game against Wantagh. The senior set numerous school records, including hits in a season (44), career home runs (27) and career wins (29). Morrell threw six no-hitters in his varsity career, including three this season.

Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi had his iPad close by at all times once the draft was underway. He cleaned out his coach’s office at the high school, did chores around the house, and finally, his young sensation’s name came across the screen. He gasped.

“This is awesome,” he shouted.

Willi was supposed to be having a birthday dinner with his family, after foregoing a birthday celebration the night before to attend the player awards dinner, but it had to be put off for at least another night. He immediately picked up the phone to call all the coaches he knew.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell is a 6-foot, 1-inch right-handed pitcher who is committed to Notre Dame University. File photo by Bill Landon

“It was a good birthday present,” Willi said of the back-to-back historic days for Shoreham-Wading River and for his 6-foot, 1-inch right-hander. “With each name that was posted I was keeping tabs. It’s exciting for him and it’s exciting for the program.”

Although Willi said it was expected, he added how interesting it was to see how the draft process works with a Notre Dame University-commit like Morrell, who has almost a full scholarship valued at nearly $300,000, according to Willi. Along with the Phillies, other teams that scouted Morrell closest included the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets.

After seeing about five scouts at each game, Willi was waiting with anticipation for that special moment for his senior, but he didn’t expect that to be the case for Morrell, since the hurler has always stayed cool under pressure.

“Brian works his tail off, and he does the right thing,” Willi said. “The first couple times the scouts were out, the guys were a little awestruck, but Brian has always been team-first.”

Morrell had one of his biggest showings in a no-hitter against Bayport-Blue Point April 27. At least five scouts were in the stands to see him nail down 15 strikeouts with three walks while tossing the seven scoreless frames. He topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun. A scout who came from Massachusetts and got caught in traffic, according to Willi, only caught the last inning, though he still got to see Morrell comfortably throwing each pitch at 92 mph late in the game.

“It was good for the scouts to be there and see some of his best stuff,” Willi said. “[Being drafted had] been on his mind all season, but he never let it reflect on his performance or how he treated anyone. He didn’t try to throw 100 mph and not care if he wins the game — he never had that attitude. He always did what he needed to do to win the game. He was never selfish. He never tried to impress. He just wanted to win.”

Scouts were also impressed with his body of work.

Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round. Photo from St. John’s University athletics

Jarred Carrier, New York’s scouting director for Prep Baseball Report, dubbed Morrell New York’s Baseball Player of the Year.

“The 2017 high school season yielded many stellar individual performances across all corners of New York, but one player stood above the rest,” he said. “He delivered a statistically dominant season.”

Despite Morrell’s success, the 10-year coach and three-year varsity leader in no way takes credit for what his player has become.

“One of my coaching philosophies is that a player should be coached by many coaches,” Willi said. “One guy doesn’t have all the answers. There’s different strokes for different folks. Everybody had different body types, different talents, different skills in the game, and I think they should be exposed to many coaches. There’s a couple of things I taught Brian that he can take to the next level, and that makes me proud as a coach.”

An hour after Morrell went, 2014 Shoreham-Wading River graduate Tyler Osik was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 40th and final round. Tyler’s father Keith played seven seasons for the Pirates from 1996 through 2002. Tyler Osik played infielder and catcher, most recently for Chipola College in Florida.

“It’s sweet,” Willi said immediately upon hearing the news. “It’s really cool. To have coached six years total of varsity including assistant and head coach, I’ve had three players during that time get drafted that I’ve had the pleasure of coaching.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s Brian Morrell shows excitement following his two-run home run during a WIldcats win. Photo by Bill Landon

This is the second time that two Shoreham-Wading River graduates have been selected in the same draft. The first time, coincidentally, was in 1990 when Osik’s father was drafted by the Pirates and Julio Vega by the San Francisco Giants.

“He was a leader on the field,” Willi said of Tyler Osik, who played third base for the Wildcats. “He switched to catcher, which is interesting, because he’s followed the run of his father. He’s one of the Shoreham die-hard baseball kids. He loves the game, puts tons of effort into being the best and he did a good job listening to his coaches. I’m really happy to see his success.”

Other Suffolk County players to be taken in this year’s draft included Mount Sinai’s Michael Donadio, a senior outfielder at St. John’s University, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 30th round, and Commack’s Jesse Berardi, a St. John’s junior, who was picked by the Cleveland Indians in the 10th round with the 312th overall pick.

St. John’s appeared in the NCAA regional this year. Donadio posted a .374/.473/.547 with 24 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and 38 RBIs starting in all 55 games this season.

Players drafted have until July 15 to sign a contact, but Morrell is already settling in as part of the Fighting Irish.

“To have that kind of recognition, us coaches are proud of any kind of professional looks that we get,” Willi said. “Brian got the opportunities that many kids dream of. It’s a big decision on what path you’re going to take, but I reassured him whatever path he takes, it’s going to be a fun one. If he keeps working hard he’s going to be successful.”

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Commack baseball captains Demetri Mesimeris, Pete Theodorellis and john Pohlman accept the runner-up plaque. Photo by Bill Landon
Pete Theoforellis fires from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Down three runs, Commack’s baseball team dug itself out of a hole in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game, 4-4, but Massapequa added four late runs to pull away with an 8-4 win for the Class AA Long Island championship title at St. Joseph’s College June 3.

The road to the Suffolk title began on May 16, where the Cougars picked off Kings Park Hauppauge a day later and battled Patchogue-Medford in the best of three series. From there, Commack got the better of West Islip, sweeping the series and with it, picking up the program’s first Suffolk County crown in 20 years. The Cougars took a 15-3 record into Saturday’s game.

After singles by senior Pete Theodorellis and junior James Cardinale in the bottom of the fifth inning, sophomore Tim McHugh drew the walk to load the bases. With two outs, it was Jake Krzemienski’s bat that made the difference, as the sophomore ripped a deep three-run, stand-up double to make it a new game.

Tim McHugh drives the ball deep. Photo by Bill Landon

“Awesome season boys,” McHugh wrote on Twitter following the loss. “Good luck to all seniors in college. Happy to say I made another family.”

The Chiefs laid down a bunt to move senior Michael Cottone to second base, and classmate Luke O’Mahony drove him home to put his team back in front, 5-4. Theodorellis got into trouble on the mound, and loaded the bases for the second time in the game. He paid the price when he walked in Massapequa’s sixth run, and the Chiefs plated who more runs before the inning was over.

Massapequa retired all three Commack batters in order in the bottom of the inning to end the game.

“I’ve got a great group of kids who listened to everything I’d say and they gave it their best effort every single day,” Commack head coach Bryan Bonin said. “Competing on every single pitch — they’re a good group of kids who have a never-quit attitude.”

The Commack team celebrates Jake Krzemienski’s three-run double. Photo by Bill Landon

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Wildcats' senior Kyle Baylous walks off the field after a sixth-inning rally stalls. Photo by Alex Petroski

An old baseball adage says to beat a dominant starting pitcher, you have to get to him early, and facing one of the most dominant hurlers in recent Long Island baseball history, the Wantagh Warriors executed the game plan to perfection. The first six batters to face Shoreham-Wading River standout senior starter Brian Morrell all reached base, and the first four eventually scored in a nightmare first inning for the Wildcats, who dropped the Class A Long Island championship game June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury, 4-2.

Brian Morrell fires a pitch. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors sent nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first on four hits and two walks to jump out early, and eventually hand Shoreham-Wading River its first loss since April 5. The loss snapped a 20-game Wildcats win streak. Wantagh was crowned the Long Island Class A champion for the second consecutive season after knocking off Mount Sinai for the title in 2016.

“I think they had a good approach because Brian’s hard to hit, so they probably just started hacking away when they could and got a good piece of the ball and did what they had to do to win,” senior catcher and team captain Thomas Brady said of Wantagh’s big inning against Morrell.

The University of Notre Dame-bound starting pitcher finished his rockiest outing of the season allowing four earned runs on five hits, three walks and five strikeouts over six innings. He eventually settled in, and only one Warrior base runner reached second base after the first inning.

The Wantagh Warriors celebrate knocking off Shoreham-Wading River in the Long Island Class A championship game. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was like a dream come true kind of,” Brady said of the scorching stretch of baseball Shoreham-Wading River put together to reach the final game. “We all worked as hard as we possibly could. I love these guys to death and now we’re all moving on to a new chapter. Hopefully the younger kids can bring it home next year.”

The Wildcats’ entire starting lineup was comprised of seniors Saturday. Head coach Kevin Willi reflected on the successes of the outgoing 16-man senior class following their last game in blue and gold.

“They were awesome — I mean really all 16 guys were diehard all year,” he said. “They worked their tails off the entire time. I wish we could have came home with a Long Island championship for them, but that’s the way it happens. A county championship is a pretty good accomplishment, especially with the best record in program history; those are good things to remember that these guys earned.”

Wantagh’s left-handed starting pitcher, junior Anthony Fontana, kept the Wildcats’ normally potent offense off balance for most of the game. He allowed just two earned runs on five singles and a walk over five innings of work. Saturday was the first time all season Shoreham-Wading River had been held to two runs or less.

Brian Morrell takes a cut as Shoreham-Wading River’s last chance in the seventh inning. Photo by Alex Petroski

“He’s curveball heavy, so a lot of our guys don’t want to swing at a first pitch curveball, but when the pitcher gets ahead with a curveball the batter is already at a disadvantage,” Willi said. “We hit him hard a bunch of times, and right at guys. He did a good job.”

Despite the slow day offensively, the Wildcats still had a chance in the bottom of the seventh inning trailing 4-2 with Morrell — who hit two grand slams in the previous three games — at the plate as the tying run. He grounded out to third on a high chopper to end the Wildcats’ hopes of heading upstate for a shot at a state championship. Despite the disappointing conclusion, Willi reiterated how proud he was of the achievements of his 2017 squad.

“It was awesome — we played really well through that stretch,” he said of winning 20 straight. “Even this game we played well. We ran into a good Wantagh team.”

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The Wildcats will play in the Long Island championship June 3

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team dogpiles following its 8-1 win over Bayport-Blue Point, to complete a series sweep for the Class A Suffolk County crown. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Shoreham-Wading River baseball team utilized a familiar formula to extend its dominant season beyond the Suffolk County Class A final May 26 — equal doses of the long ball and the powerful right arm of senior ace Brian Morrell.

Brian Morrell hurls a pitch from the mound. Photo by Alex Petroski

Morrell put a cherry on top of his special senior season with a complete game, 11-strikeout performance to stymie the Bayport-Blue Point bats in an 8-1 victory. He also went 3-for-5 at the plate including a second-inning grand slam — his second in three games — finishing just a triple short of the cycle. The win was the 20th in a row for the Wildcats, which completed the sweep of Bayport-Blue Point to close out their Suffolk County schedule 24-1, with an eye on more pieces of hardware.

“His breaking ball was really dynamite — that’s a tough pitch to hit,” head coach Kevin Willi said of Morrell’s stuff on the mound Friday. “He’s throwing it in all counts — not afraid to throw it 3-2 to guys; and it was really effective.”

Willi reflected on coaching the dominant two-way player during his memorable career.

“It’s nice, it’s easy,” Willi said of coaching Morrell. “He’s a good kid too on top of that. He’s always team first.”

Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team celebrates its Class A Suffolk County championship win. Photo by Alex Petroski

The ace, who has committed to play ball at the University of Notre Dame next season, said his whole arsenal was working in the victory.

“I just commanded my fastball, that’s really how I started off every batter,” he said. “Every pitch I really felt confident in. I knew if I threw strikes I was going to come out with the ‘W.’”

Morrell scattered three hits over the first two innings, then didn’t allow another over the final five frames. He set down 10 straight Phantoms at one point, before loading the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch to start the sixth. A fly out and two strikeouts ended the threat and maintained a seven-run lead.

“He was throwing really hard and painting corners,” senior catcher Thomas Brady said of his battery mate’s performance. Brady kicked off the scoring with a one-out, two-run homer in the top of the first. He and Morrell combined to drive in seven of the Wildcats’ eight runs. “Honestly, when me and him get in our rhythm, we’re the best duo,” Brady said. “It’s really hard to hit Brian obviously.”

Brian Morrell rounds the bases after hitting his second grand slam in the last three games. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite Morrell’s consistency on the hill, Willi said the team was driven by its offense in 2017.

“All season we’ve had a really heavy senior class — a lot of guys working hard for very many years to get to this point,” he said. “We put together a lot of great pitching performances, we played great defense at times when we needed it, and really the story of the year was the bats. We scored a lot of runs.”

The Wildcats will face the winner of the Nassau County championship series between Wantagh and Garden City. The Long Island championship game will be played June 3 at SUNY Old Westbury at 12 p.m.

Brady said he’s not sure it matters who Shoreham-Wading River squares off against next.

“Whoever we play, they’re not going to stop us right now,” he said. “We’re hot, we’re playing hard. We became a team, and I’m proud of all of these guys.”

Patriots shut out Smithtown in double-elimination game

By Bill Landon

Logan Doran delivered.

The Ward Melville player homered in the first inning, and drove in two runs in the second to give the No. 1 Patriots baseball team a 3-0 home win over No. 9 Smithtown East May 23, to advance to the Class AA semifinals.

Doran said he was looking for his pitch to set the tone early.

“It was a 2-0 fastball, and I was looking fastball dead red,” he said. “I saw it high and in, and just took a big swing on it. I didn’t think it was out. I was just running and then I heard my first base coach say it’s out.”

Ward Melville threatened two batters later, when Joseph Rosselli singled into shallow left, and Michael Sepe found the gap with two outs, but Smithtown East pitcher Nick Harvey fanned the last batter to strand the runners.

With two outs, Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia singled in the top of the second, Ward Melville catcher Tom Hudzik fired the ball to his twin brother Matt at second base to catch him on a steal attempt. The strike arrived in plenty of time for Matt Hudzik to apply the tag.

“They’re a hard-hitting team — they hit well last year and they came back and are hitting even better this year,” Tom Hudzik said. “It was Logan’s home run that got the momentum going.”

The Patriots went back to work in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Cronin singled to start things off. James Curcio followed with a fly ball to right field to put runners on the corners.

Again, Doran was the difference maker as he blasted the ball to right, plating Cronin and Curcio for a 3-0 lead.

“We played them [twice] and we knew what we were coming into,” Doran said. “We had to stay focused like we did the first two games. Just come out hot — that’s what we’ve been talking about. I think our team played great, and we just got to keep it rolling.”

The Patriots defense was just as potent as their bats, and the boys turned a double play in the top of the third for the first two outs. Later in the inning, with a runner on base, Hudzik sent another laser throw to his brother, who again waited for the runner to end the inning.

Ward Melville pitcher Max Nielson kept the Bulls at bay the rest of the way, spreading 76 pitches over the seven innings with four strikeouts and allowing just three hits in his shutout performance. It was the second playoff victory of his varsity career.

“The key to winning today was our defense,” Nielsen said. “But Logan’s base-hit knock sealed the deal.”

Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci also had high words of praise for Doran.

“He’s our captain ,and that’s what captains do,” he said. “That home run in the first gave us momentum.”

But he also gave other credit where due.

“Max pitched a heck of a game,” Petrucci said. “He kept their lead-off batter off base — he made quality pitches and you’ve got to give the guy credit.”

It was the third time these teams faced each other this postseason, each giving the other its first loss to send them into the double-elimination bracket.

“Bottom line is they played a little bit better than us, and they deserved to win,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Ward Melville. “Our kids hung in there — we had a very nice season — and I’m proud of them.”

Ward Melville hosted the first of a three-game series on Wednesday against No. 4 West Islip, but results were not available by press time. The two teams will face off again on the Lions’ home turf May 25, at 4 p.m. The finals are set for May 31 at Stony Brook University, 3 p.m.

This version was updated to correctly identify the second baseman as Matt Hudzik.

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Wildcats outscore Mount Sinai 16-4 to advance to Class A finals


By Bill Landon

Slamming home a win was exactly what Shoreham-Wading River’s baseball team did.

Wildcats ace Brian Morrell, and first baseman Dean Stalzer both hit grand slams in a 10-run second inning to lead Shoreham-Wading River past Mount Sinai, 16-4, in the Class A semifinals May 20. The team will face Bayport-Blue Point May 24 in the championship round.

Morrell’s bat got the game started in the first inning with a two-run home run over the left field fence. Senior Thomas Brady singled next, and classmates Vincent Uzzi and Jon Luppens hit RBI singles for a 4-0 Shoreham-Wading River advantage.

The Mustangs were unable to answer, and the Wildcats’ bats went back to work in bottom of the second.

“It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”

—Dean Stalzer

Senior Kyle Baylous hit a ground-rule double, Morrell followed with a single that put runners at the corners and senior Nick Manesis drew a walk to load the bases. With the table set, Stalzer jumped out on a fastball, and sent it flying over the left field fence with room to spare for a grand slam that doubled the Wildcat’s lead.

“We came out hot like we planned to do,” he said. “It was a fast ball inside and I knew it right away [that it was gone].”

The inning was far from over. Uzzi and senior Alex Bettenhauser hit singles, and Luppens drove Uzzi home for a second time. Senior T.J. Sicoli smacked the ball through the gap to load the bases, and Baylous was hit by a pitch to walk home the Wildcats’ 10th run.

Enter Morrell. The University of Notre Dame-bound pitching ace also jumped on a fastball, and blasted it the opposite way for the second grand slam of the inning and a commanding 14-0 lead.

“That just doesn’t happen … two grand slams in one inning is amazing,” Morrell said. “They pithed me outside all day … it was a fastball away and I just wanted to beat them.”

Morrell, who has pitched three no hitters this season and six in his varsity career, was critical of his performance on the mound despite earning the win and going 2-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs.

“My command was pretty bad today — I made my pitches and got outs, but they hit me a little bit,” he said. “Going to the county finals means a lot especially after last year where we fell short. We have a great team and I feel that we can do a lot.”

“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense.”

—Kevin Willi

Senior Will Esposito lit up the scoreboard first for Mount Sinai, and Morrell walked the next batter to load the bases. Looking to spark a rally, junior Ryan Picarello nailed a two-run shot to right field, but the Mustangs couldn’t keep the inning going. In the bottom of the fifth, Mount Sinai tacked on its final run.

After a close game between the two teams in their last outing, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Kevin Willi said he was surprised by the margin of victory. He added he was impressed with the collective effort his squad showed and how everyone made a contribution. He said the Wildcats have scored 32 home runs in its 22-1 season.

“The potential is always there to put together two good innings early, but that was pretty intense,” he said. “It was good because we just came off our closest game of the season, the 3-2 win over Mount Sinai, where we had to come back down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. To come back — getting the bats going — that’s been the story all year.”

But the Wildcats didn’t need to worry about coming back this time around. Stalzer, who finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs, plated Morrell in the bottom of the sixth, and Uzzi drove home Stalzer to give the game its final score.

“We knew that Mount Sinai wasn’t going to lay down and let us have it,” Stalzer said. “So our mindset was to be really focused today. If we lost today it would’ve been our first loss [in the postseason], and we didn’t want to play them again.”

Rocky Point and Mount Sinai faced off in the Suffolk County baseball championship game in 2016, and though the schools are rivals, they’re on the same team once a year to honor Susie Facini.

A Rocky Point High School graduate, Facini died in November 2011 at 19 years old of a sudden heart attack. Without warning, she felt her heart race, and passed out just seconds later. Despite efforts of her mother, Bernadette, a registered nurse, Facini was unable to be revived.

Susie Facini’s parents, Bernadette and Pete, during the fourth-annual Live Like Susie baseball game and fundraising event. Photo by Bill Landon

The Rocky Point alum had an immediate impact on everyone she met. Her reach was so strong, that over 3,000 people came to her one-day wake. As a result of her death, 18-year teacher Andrew Aschettino, head coach of the Rocky Point baseball team, felt compelled to host a baseball game in her memory.

“She was genuinely concerned for other people — she was the happiest person,” Aschettino said. “With a smile, she always had something nice to say about everybody everyday. Everyone was happier just by being around her, and that’s what we’re trying to spread.”

Rocky Point assistant coach Eric Strovink said Aschettino called up their good friend and Mount Sinai baseball team’s head coach, Eric Reichenbach, in 2014 to ask if his Mustangs would compete in a yearly game in Facini’s honor.

“Reichenbach said, ‘We’re in for as long as you guys do this,’” said Strovink, a Shoreham-Wading River graduate. “That’s pretty impressive.”

The two teams faced off May 6 in the annual Live Like Susie game, which raises money for a scholarship in Facini’s name. There’s no requirement for the student who receives the scholarship except that they be a kind and giving person.


“It’s extremely heartwarming,” Facini’s father Pete said of the event. “This is a community that came together to make something great out of something that is so sad and tragic. Susie represented nothing but kindness and that message transcends what has happened. These people here recognize it, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Mount Sinai tops Rocky Point

By Bill Landon

Although the matchup was in the name of a good cause, someone needed to come out on top, and with a five-run sixth inning put Mount Sinai’s baseball team ahead 9-2 at Ridge’s Fireman’s Field.

Mount Sinai senior Dan Deckert’s bat cracked first, drilling a home run over the left field fence and bringing home classmate Will Esposito for an early 2-0 lead. Mount Sinai junior George Rainer took a healthy lead off second base, and senior Alex Giantonnio helped bring him home for a three-run lead with a shot to deep right field.

Rocky Point junior John Rosman took the egg off the scoreboard for the Eagles, sending the ball through the gap and sending home senior Shane Owensby to make it a two-run game, 3-1.

The Mustangs found themselves in trouble in the bottom of the third inning when senior Robert Lindstrom walked a batter to loaded the bases with one out. Lindstrom focused in on his next two batters, and escaped the inning without letting up a run.

The team found itself in trouble yet again in the bottom of the fourth, but this time, the Eagles capitalized, with a run coming in off a walk with the bases loaded to cut the lead in half, 4-2.

Then, Mount Sinai’s bats caught fire in the top of the sixth with a pair of unearned runs, and followed it with a bases-clearing three-RBI single for a 9-2 lead and the win.

Rocky Point hit the road May 8 for the first of a three-game series against Sayville, coming up just short 5-4. The Eagles will host Sayville and Mount Sinai will host Elwood-John Glenn May 9 at 4:30 p.m.

He and his wife said they enjoy seeing that even though the current students and members of the baseball team may not have known their daughter, they’re excited to be a playing in such a special game.

“These boys never knew her, and we’re very proud,” Bernadette Facini said. “Sometimes I’ll be out shopping and I’ll see one of the kids from Mount Sinai with a purple bracelet on that says Live Like Susie or they’re wearing a Live Like Susie T-shirt, so we are so humbled by the kindness. She was adored by so many and she was just a joy to be around. She literally went from group to group to group — there were no outsiders in her life — and that’s why we keep the kindness award and scholarship going in her name.”

Reichenbach said he’s also proud to be part of the event.

“Our communities are so close — the kids all know each other — so it’s just good people getting together for a good cause,” he said. “I know [Susie Facini] was a big part of coach Asch’s life. It’s a great way to keep her memory alive.”

Parents donate food for the event, and in return for the free food, there’s a suggested donation toward the scholarship. Last year, $1,000 was raised, and with an even larger turnout at this year’s game, Aschettino said he’s hoping for an even bigger scholarship.

Cassie Rando, last year’s recipient, was home from college and attended the crosstown matchup. Bernadette Facini pointed to her as a reason why the family and the baseball teams keep doing what they’re doing. But Aschettino pointed to the Facinis as the real motivators.

“It’s a classic case of where the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” he said. “Their son Andy is also a great kid — they’re just great kids from a great family.”

Rocky Point students and Eagles’ team members like Brian Forbes feel the same way.

“It just shows how we can all come together as a family,” the senior said. “[Mount Sinai doesn’t] have to do this, but they do. That shows how great they are.”

Senior Matt Pendl said he likes seeing the two teams continue to come together each year with mutual respect and admiration for a beloved community member.

“This is so important — it shows that there’s more important things in life than just baseball,” he said. “We had a blast celebrating the memory of someone who was just a great individual. I was not fortunate enough to know Susie, but my three older brothers who went to this school were fortunate enough to know her, and all I’ve heard is that she was an amazing person. This event is just a great way to remember her.”

To donate to the Live Like Susie scholarship, contact Rocky Point High School at 631-744-1600 or visit the school at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road.

Bill Landon contributed reporting

Smithtown East's Michael Ruggiero hurls a pitch. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s Matt Laurelli races back to the base while Newfield’s Tom DeSena waits for the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s baseball bats were cracking May 2 during a 15-0 shutout of Newfield to maintain the No. 2 spot in League III. With the win, the Bulls are three games behind Half Hollow Hills East.

Smithtown East senior starting pitcher Michael Ruggiero was as big a threat at the plate as he was from the mound. He belted the ball through  the gap to drive home sophomore Nick Harvey for the early lead in the top of the third, and senior Andrew Canino followed with a shot to right field, plating Ruggiero and junior Matt Laurelli for a 3-0 lead.

Newfield head coach Eric Joyner met with starting pitcher Ryan Wappaus on the mound, but the talk didn’t help, as Newfield loaded the bases with two outs. Junior Marc Barbiglia was up to bat next and smashed a base-clearing double to double the advantage to 6-0.

Newfield’s Mike Manzolillo makes contact. Photo by Bill Landon

“They’re a great team — they came out here and they fought hard, but we put the bat on the ball,” Barbiglia said. “We threw strikes, let them hit the ball, put the ball in play [and] we had good fielding. But our bats were on fire today.”

In the top of the fourth inning, Newfield found itself in another tough spot with a runner on base and Ruggiero up to bat. He blasted the ball over the right fielder’s head and speedily made his way around the bases for an in-the-park home run.

“He put it on the outside half [of the plate], it was a 3-1 count, so I knew a fastball was coming,” Ruggiero said. “I jumped right on it and hit it the other way. They did get me earlier in the game, but I fell back and adjusted. [Newfield is] scrappy — a good baseball team — but we were able to shut them down today.”

Newfield made its second change at the mound, but the Bulls didn’t miss a beat. Ruggiero singled to shallow right to put runners on the corner in the top of the sixth, a walk loaded the bases, and Canino drew another walk to bring home Harvey for a nine-run lead.

Smithtown East’s Marc Barbiglia makes his way to home plate. Photo by Bill Landon

“We had base runners on in the first three innings, but we just didn’t get the big hit to get some runs on the board to keep us close,” Joyner said. “They took the advantage moving base runners over and had timely hitting, and we just didn’t do that today.”

Justin Harvey, Nick’s twin brother, found the gap scoring Laurelli, and the runs piled on from there. Sophomore Will Kennedy drove in two with a stand-up double, Barbiglia smacked another RBI-single and sophomore Matt Tempone drilled a two-run double for the final runs.

“They have very good pitching, very good players,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said of Newfield. “Michael Ruggiero, he’s our leader — we’ve been waiting all year to start him and he did exactly what we expected of him. It was probably our best offensive game all year, but they were on the wrong side of it today. We know they’re good, so we’ve got to be ready to play [them again] tomorrow.”

Newfield traveled to Smithtown East May 3, but results were not available by press time. Newfield will host Smithtown East May 4 at 4:30 p.m. to complete the three-game series.